In the time since Satya Nadella replaced Steve Ballmer as Microsoft boss in 2014, the company has experienced a resurgence that’s seen its market value rise by $250 billion. But things could have turned out differently if Amazon chief Jeff Bezos had got his way.
In an extensive profile of Nadella by Fast Company’s Harry McCracken, the CEO’s old manager at Microsoft — Doug Burgum — reveals that Bezos attempted to convince Nadella to join him at Amazon more than a decade ago.
“Early on, Jeff Bezos was trying to recruit him [Nadella],” said Burgum, who is now governor of North Dakota. “It was my job to re-recruit him.”
Burgum managed to get Nadella to stay by assuring him that Microsoft offered more opportunities than a mere online bookseller; a fairly accurate description of Amazon before it expanded into one of the largest companies in the world.
“I was wrong about my characterization of Amazon,” Burgum added. “But I was right about convincing Satya to stay.”
As head of Microsoft’s former Business Solutions Group, Burgum had been preparing Nadella to become his successor, but Steve Ballmer wanted him to run the engineering arm of Windows Live Search, which went on to become Bing. After later heading Microsoft’s Server & Tools Group, Nadella took over from Ballmer as the company's leader in February 2014.
Despite being business rivals, it seems that Bezos and Nadella still retain a mutual respect. The pair recently joined forces to allow their smart assistants — Alexa and Cortana — to access each other’s unique skills. Bezos reportedly first suggested the idea of a collaboration to Nadella at Microsoft’s CEO Summit in May 2016.